Wolfpack falls in first game without Yow

Published 12:45 am Friday, January 30, 2009

By By AARON BEARD, AP Sports Writer
RALEIGH — Mickel Picco scored 22 points to help Boston College hold off North Carolina State 62-51 on Thursday night in the Wolfpack’s first game since the death of Hall of Fame coach Kay Yow.
Carolyn Swords added 14 points and 21 rebounds for the Eagles (17-4, 5-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), who led the entire way and by as many as 31 points on an emotional night in Reynolds Coliseum. Still, they had to hold on down the stretch as the Wolfpack put together a stunning comeback that actually cut the deficit to single digits in the final seconds.
Shayla Fields scored 17 points for the Wolfpack (8-12, 0-5), who couldn’t manage a storybook ending on the night they returned to the court for the first time since Yow’s death Saturday. But there was the kind of gutsy comeback attempt that would have made Yow — who often stayed with her team through cancer fight because she said her players inspired her — proud.
The Wolfpack had lost five straight games coming in, a stretch that began in December when Yow had to take a four-game absence due to what was described as an extremely low energy level. Yow announced shortly after the new year that she would not return this season.
She soon entered a hospital for treatment and spent about a week there before her death.
Before the game, there was a moment of silence to honor the Hall of Famer. Her seat on the Wolfpack bench sat empty the entire night, draped with an N.C. State jersey bearing the No. 14 — the number Yow wore in high school.
There was no shortage of pink — the color of breast cancer awareness — in the stands and on the court. At least half the fans wore pink shirts or pink ribbons. The Boston College team wore pink shoelaces and had pink hairbands. The game ball carried a pink ribbon logo. The referees had pink whistles.
As for N.C. State’s players, they donned pink trimmed uniforms bearing the name ‘‘Yow’’ on the back and pink shoes. They also had a pink heart bearing her last name attached to their jerseys.
For much of the night, however, N.C. State looked like a team under the suffocating pressure of trying to play for Yow — a burden that only grew heavier as Boston College pulled further and further away. It looked nothing like the team that had taken highly ranked rivals North Carolina and Duke to overtime in close losses this month. N.C. State trailed 32-9 in the first half, then 50-19 early in the second half.
Then Fields hit a 3-pointer, followed by a driving score from Bonae Holston and another score from Fields. It was the beginning of a 22-2 run that suddenly made the impossible comeback look, well, possible.
The Wolfpack got within 11 points three times in the final 2 1/2 minutes, then got the deficit down to 58-48 on a 3-pointer from Shayla Fields with 40.7 seconds left. Finally, N.C. State got as close as 60-51 on a desperation 3 from Sharnise Beal with 17.1 seconds to play.
Still, when time expired, the fans gave the Wolfpack a standing ovation. The team huddled at midcourt while interim coach Stephanie Glance quietly offered words of support.
The game was a small piece of an emotionally wrenching week for the Wolfpack. On Tuesday, the team returned to practice for the first time. The next day, the coaches and players attended the campus tribute ceremony at Reynolds Coliseum.
Yow’s funeral is scheduled for Friday in nearby Cary, with her burial coming Saturday in her hometown of Gibsonville.